In situ localization of N and C termini of subunits of the flagellar nexin-dynein regulatory complex (N-DRC) using SNAP tag and cryo-electron tomography

Kangkang Song, Junya Awata, Douglas Tritschler, Raqual Bower, George B. Witman, Mary E. Porter, Daniela Nicastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) has reached nanoscale resolution for in situ three-dimensional imaging of macromolecular complexes and organelles. Yet its current resolution is not sufficient to precisely localize or identify most proteins in situ; for example, the location and arrangement of components of the nexin-dynein regulatory complex (N-DRC), a key regulator of ciliary/flagellar motility that is conserved from algae to humans, have remained elusive despite many cryo-ET studies of cilia and flagella. Here, we developed an in situ localization method that combines cryo-ET/subtomogram averaging with the clonable SNAP tag, a widely used cell biological probe to visualize fusion proteins by fluorescence microscopy. Using this hybrid approach, we precisely determined the locations of the N and C termini of DRC3 and the C terminus of DRC4 within the three-dimensional structure of the N-DRC in Chlamydomonas flagella. Our data demonstrate that fusion of SNAP with target proteins allowed for protein localization with high efficiency and fidelity using SNAP-linked gold nanoparticles, without disrupting the native assembly, structure, or function of the flagella. After cryo-ET and subtomogram averaging, we localized DRC3 to the L1 projection of the nexin linker, which interacts directly with a dynein motor, whereas DRC4 was observed to stretch along the N-DRC base plate to the nexin linker. Application of the technique developed here to the N-DRC revealed new insights into the organization and regulatory mechanism of this complex, and provides a valuable tool for the structural dissection of macromolecular complexes in situ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5341-5353
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 27 2015


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